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Baltimore Youth Turn Green Cleaning Up Parks, Learn about Sustainable Living

By Megan Volger
September 14, 2009

In an effort to realize Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s goal of creating a cleaner, greener Baltimore, 350 Baltimore youth, ages 14 to 21, took on green jobs and attended lectures on sustainable energy and environmental-driven services for six weeks this summer.

The goal of Baltimore’s Green Jobs Youth Corps was to introduce young people to green jobs and the career opportunities that the emerging green economy has to offer. This program was composed of two sections: labor and academic. From June 22 to July 31, youth participants worked jobs in horticulture, wildlife management, urban forestry, historic preservation and invasive plant assessment and remediation. Most of this work was done to restore and maintain their local urban neighborhood parks. In addition, the young people were required to attend thirteen, two-hour lessons that taught them the importance of, and how to, go green. Topic included green buildings and green roofs, the fate of garbage, basic botany, reducing one’s carbon footprint and urban agriculture.

The city’s Department of Parks designed the program’s curriculum, which included frequent guest expert speakers. For example, a local student in plant science helped present the lesson on basic botany.

Participating youth gained valuable work experience and knowledge about green living through this program. They developed basic workplace skills that will aid them when they seek future employment. Participants were also exposed to ways in which they can live greener in their everyday lives.

According to one program coordinator, the most beneficial aspect of this program was the personal transformations undergone by the participants. On the first day, one Corps member showed up to work with her nails and hair precisely done and finely dressed, not knowing what to expect. The program coordinator did not think that she was going to last, considering she did not seem prepared for the hard work the program expected from her. However, this 15-year-old girl rolled up her sleeves and went to work. She surprised even herself about what she could do to help her community go green.

Participants were paid minimum wage, which was $6.55 an hour before July 24, when it was then increased to $7.25. They worked and attended lessons six hours a day for five days a week.

In addition, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding paid for 30 team leaders to assist Green Jobs Youth Corps members in their green projects. These team leaders, who were 22 to 24 years old, also learned how to transform Baltimore into a greener city and were aided in their search for employment or training after the summer.

Green Jobs Youth Corps is a part of the city’s YouthWorks Summer Jobs, which employed 6,700 youth all around Baltimore. It was funded by a $1.1 million federal earmark. Other Baltimore Summer Jobs programs received funds from city general funds, a TANF grant, a state grant, private contributions and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The success of this program has encouraged its creators to continue it for another year; next summer 350 new and returning youth will have the opportunity to learn and work green.